This year’s unusual draft process combined with the Cleveland Browns relatively focused list of needs has made it so little has changed over the past few months. Pro Days don’t provide the apples to apples comparison that the NFL Scouting Combine does, but they are nevertheless a way to get athletic testing results, even if they may come with a grain of salt.
The good news is it at least provides accurate heights and weights as well as jumps, because it isn’t subject to human error. It may not be perfect, but getting an athletic profile and comparing that against the tape has been worthwhile and helped some prospects draw additional attention.
The Browns come into this draft with the same two biggest needs they’ve had all offseason; corner and edge rusher. If the draft lines up for them, that might be their ideal use of their first two picks and they might feel the need to engineer a trade to make sure that happens.
The question the Browns must answer is how quickly they feel they need impact from those players. Getting players most likely to contribute early isn’t an exact science, but it could also come at the expense of longer term success.
Last year, the Browns did not feel compelled to draft with an eye towards immediate contribution, even if it worked out that way. Save for Jedrick Wills, the 10th pick of the NFL Draft, none of the players they picked started much, if at all. Still, Wills was 20 years old when they selected him.
Grant Delpit was slated to start at free safety before suffering a season-ending Achilles’ rupture, but his profile also suggested long term success. It’s easier to determine the benchmarks that suggest longer term success rather than accurate project a player to help immediately. And should that go wrong, either due to an unexpected struggle or injury, it can sabotage the pick entirely.
So for this draft, the Browns continue to focus on getting talent from players who project for long term success. That doesn’t prevent them from contributing early, but they aren’t counted on in order for the team’s success, at least right out of the gate.
Round 1: Joseph Ossai, EDGE Texas
Age: 20 (Born April 13, 2000, will be 21 at the time of the Draft)
Height: 6’3 3/4″
Weight: 256 lbs
Arm Length: 33 7/8″
40-Yard Dash: 4.63
Broad Jump: 10’11”
Bench Press: 19 reps
Save for agility, which Ossai did not test, he hits every benchmark including age that enables him to reach the highest levels of success in the NFL. His speed and explosion are outstanding and he’s barely going to be 21 years old when he’s picked in the NFL Draft.
Not testing agility is a hole and it’s something that can be rightly criticized.
Production: 26 solo tackles (6.8 percent), 16 tackles for loss (23.1 percent), 5 sacks (31.2 percent) in 2020 season
Ossai was the best player on the Texas defense, despite being in his first full season as an edge rusher. The previous two seasons he had been an off-ball linebacker that was occasionally lined up on the edge. His production is excellent and also enables his ceiling to be remarkably high.
His game is predicated on a combination of speed, one of the best motors anyone could hope to find along with relentless effort. When he doesn’t make the play initially, he’s going to chase it down if possible. At times, he can look like an extra defender on the field because he is a factor on plays where so many would have given up and moved onto the next one.
A great example is against Oklahoma where he is lined up at left defensive end. Texas runs a counter to the right. Ossai initially gets up the field and is blocked by the pulling guard. Despite a six yard lead, Ossai chases down the play tackling and stripping the back inside the Texas 20-yard, causing a turnover. The play is at the 1:02 mark of this video.
Ossai is still a developing pass rusher. He will flash a decent swim move and can do a nice job swatting the blocker’s hands when he’s running past him to get clean. Ossai has shown a push-pull move to get off blocks at points as well. It all has room to improve, but he is willing to take on defeat blocks.
Ossai does a great job redirecting with his ankles to get opponents off balance with his feet when his hips are going straight at the blocker. His willingness to go inside as well as outside can give opposing blockers fits. Ossai definitely has the speed to run the arc and his pursuit and speed to close is spectacular.
Ossai is also active with his hands as a tackler, trying to actively cause fumbles when he secures tackles. It’s similar to Myles Garrett, who is more focused on trying to get the ball than necessarily try to kill the quarterback, which can draw a penalty flag due to perceived violence as opposed to the letter of the law.
Snap anticipation is an area where Ossai can make the most immediate improvement. He is often late off the ball, which can be a function of experience as much as anything else. He often lets himself be put at a disadvantage because he’s playing from behind, which makes him have to work harder to succeed.
The other area where Ossai can make major strides is just how often he ends up on the ground. Some of this is just because of how Ossai plays. All out, playing as fast as he can, which can leave him vulnerable to get drilled. If he’s trying to chase a play down across the field, there are opportunities for opponents to give him their best shot and he can go flying.
Some can be combated by playing lower, with better leverage to protect himself. Again, a partly a product of how fast he wants to play, he tends to stand up more, which raises his center of gravity. But in tight quarters, he needs to improve his base and hold his ground better.
Ossai can absolutely play with his hand on the ground. He’s done it extensively and he’s only going to continue filling out his frame to add some weight. But if he plays from a 2-point stance, he’s simply playing a LEO position as opposed to a true defensive end. It doesn’t require a change in scheme to accommodate it. Ossai’s explosive ability is also evident in his drops so he is a real viable option in that regard.
For the Browns, Ossai represents a super talented project that can contribute in year one, but isn’t relied upon in order for their defense to succeed. He can be a fast, designated pass rusher initially as he grows into his role over time. If the Browns were to sign a player like Jadeveon Clowney, that doesn’t diminish Ossai’s value, but gives the Browns more freedom in how to utilize him.
The Browns hope to play with leads this year and combined with a better defense, should enable the Browns to rush the passer more often. Should that prove true, pass rushing is exhausting and the Browns will want all the fresh bodies they can get. Ossai basically never gets tired while giving them another pass rusher with speed.
If they do sign Clowney, it may only be on a one-year deal. Takkarist McKinley is only one a one-year deal, so Ossai would likely be front and center as the starter across from Myles Garrett in 2021. That’s the ideal scenario in developing him for that purpose.
This is projecting a trade into the 40s. The Browns would give up 59th pick (2nd round), 91st (3rd round pick) and 132nd pick (4th round) to move up to accomplish this move.
The talent likely to be taken around the 20th pick to around the 50th pick is pretty similar before there’s a drop-off that looks reasonably significant.
The Browns are trying to address two main needs and two incredibly important positions, so it incentivizes them to make sure they get two players they have specifically targeted that are at a pretty high talent level.
While they don’t necessarily have ‘extra’ picks, they may not want to bring in nine draft picks this season and they do have a second third round and fourth round pick this year. So they can make a move up the board without sacrificing their relative position in any one round.
Additionally, if the Browns take anything other than a corner in the first round, it would seemingly ramp up the pressure to make sure they get one. One they believe has potential to start, if not better.
Round 2: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB Syracuse
Age: 21 (Born in May, 1999)
Height: 6’2 1/2″
Weight: 205 lbs
Arm Length: 32 1/8″
40-Yard Dash: 4.5
Broad Jump: 11’2″
Bench Press: 16 reps
Melifonwu’s length and explosion is ideal. His raw speed and agility are fine. For someone his size, it’s difficult to have elite hip fluidity, but he has enough to excel. His age is great.
Production: 42 solo tackles (6.9 percent), 9 pass deflections (24.3 percent), 1 interception in 2020 season
Melifonwu is not a finished product, but he offers prototypical size for a boundary corner, which is something that the Browns may see as important. Denzel Ward is 5’10” and other than Greedy Williams, they don’t have anyone who looks able to provide meaningful contributions that offers much size. Melifonwu is much bigger in terms of his weight than Williams as well.
Melifonwu is at his best when he’s playing over the top of coverage, which is exactly what the Browns usually want their corners to do. His length and ability to extend and reach out can be akin to an eclipse in front of the receiver. He’s just a massive body that can be incredibly difficult for opponents to pass around, through receivers to track the ball.
The biggest issue Melifonwu has at this stage is impatience with declaring his hips. He isn’t overly comfortable just backpedaling and will turn his hips early, which allows the receiver to go the other way or cut short to make receptions. Often, Melifonwu has plenty of space and could wait, but he needs to develop that patience and trust in his ability.
It’s really difficult to go over the top against Melifonwu. He is not as physically dominant as he probably should be when it comes to owning space down the field, but he’s still a big body that can go up and combat passes.
The issue that Melifonwu runs into is that opponents are able to nickel and dime him. So for people who watch his highlights, they will see him coming down hill and drilling receivers, which is good that he’s not giving up extra yardage, but it’s indicative of someone giving up easy receptions.
He is willing tackler and his size proves advantageous. It’s not easy to get around him. He does a pretty good job of stopping the bleeding after the catch.
Melifonwu’s upside is impressive, which is why the Browns may be willing to work with him and trying to get him more confident in his technique and hips. That combined with having Greedy Williams gives them options. Williams needs to stay healthy, but he’s a valuable part of this defense and the Browns need him to step up as much as they need Melifonwu to succeed.
If Williams has improved and gotten more confident, it makes it so Melifonwu is free to grow at his own pace and they don’t necessarily need to throw him into the fire early. Over the course of the season, he may find his way onto the field and eventually earn the starting job.
As much as it would be great for the Browns to draft someone who can plug into that corner spot immediately, it may not be a major necessity, allowing them to opt for the higher end talent that provides benefits to vary matchups depending on what opponents have in terms of size and speed at receiver.
Round 3: Tylan Wallace, WR Oklahoma State
Age: 21 (Born May 13th, 1999)
Height: 5’11 3/8″
Weight: 194 lbs
Arm Length: 30 3/8″
40-Yard Dash: 4.5
Broad Jump: 9’4″
Bench Press: 11 reps
Wallace’s athletic profile is ordinary, verging on mediocre. His speed and agility are both fine, but his explosion is pretty poor, but none of it is a deal breaker.
Add in the fact teams will have to evaluate his knee which suffered an ACL tear and it could scare teams away from Wallace. He suffered another knee injury that limited him at the end of this season, which may or not have impacted his results. He only missed one game.
Age-wise, he’s in good shape.
Production: 86 receptions for 1,436 yards (37%), 12 touchdowns in 2018 season
Wallace has three seasons of prolific production for the Cowboys even when accounting for games missed to injury (5 in 2019 and 1 in 2020), taking over for James Washington who accomplished the same feat the previous three seasons.
Wallace’s production helps to mitigate the issues he has on his athletic profile and some of that is due to the fact Wallace is arguably as polished a receiver as any in this class.
His skill set as a deep threat really stands out as he’s such a technician when it comes to setting up routes, creating space and tracking the ball to make catches that at times seem improbable. He’s an artist in this area of the game with incredible attention to detail.
Wallace is not overly strong, so he’s not able to really move people out of his way, but he has a terrific understanding of space and at times will go to spots on the field that cut off the defender, forcing them to go through him if they want to play the ball. When they don’t, he simply stretches out and makes the reception on a tear drop pass that resembles Scott Zolak throwing in Tecmo Super Bowl.
His balance through contact is remarkable and he’s able to shake opponents with route running. Wallace does a great job sinking his hips before changing the direction enabling him to make a clean cut, opening himself when he’s coming back toward the line of scrimmage.
That skill set allowed him to be virtually uncoverable at the Senior Bowl and there were a couple examples where the defender had great position and Wallace’s uncanny ability allowed him to make the catch regardless.
In some ways, he bears some similarities to Rashard Higgins. Wallace has a better athletic profile than Higgins did, but neither is blowing anyone with their athletic testing. That could be the fatal flaw for Wallace, particularly as it relates to attacking down the field, but Higgins tested worse at just about everything and yet he does a great job attacking the deep intermediate level of the field.
Like Higgins, Wallace just seems to have a great understanding of science of being a wide receiver. Unlike Higgins, he has shown to be a vertical threat in the passing game.
The Browns might want someone with more obvious raw speed than Wallace. The hope is that Wallace is a better athlete than he tested and his knee is deemed to be in great shape. It’s just difficult to ignore his production and just how special he is on tape.
Round 4 (via PHI): Marlon Tuipulotu, DT USC
Age: 21 (Born May 31, 1999)
Height: 6’1 3/4″
Weight: 308 lbs
Arm Length: 32 3/4″
40-Yard Dash: DNF
Broad Jump: 8’7″
Bench Press: 30 reps
Tuipulotu’s profile is pretty average. His vertical is good but his broad jump isn’t impressive and he wasn’t able to do the 40. Where he stands out is his 3-cone. No, teams aren’t looking for him to run the arc or anything, but it’s an indication of his balance, which is important for a nose tackle.
Production: 12 solo tackles (5.7 percent), 3.5 tackles for loss (8.7 percent), 2 sacks (13.3 percent) in 2020 season
Tuipulotu is a densely built Samoan with family with him in the USC program, including his brother (Tuli) and a cousin (safety Talanoa Hufanga). Fili Moala, also a USC alum, was a member of the Indianapolis Colts from 2009 to 2014.
Tuipulotu is pretty stout at the point of attack, has long arms and a strong punch that can stun opponents trying to move him. His balance and pad level can make it difficult to uproot him. When he’s able to extend his arms, he can free himself to potentially make plays on the ball carrier.
Able to operate from both the nose and the three to focus on stopping the run, Tuipulotu can offer the Browns a packaged plugger in addition to depth behind Andrew Billings. Jordan Elliott might have a leg up on him as a run stopper at the three, but it’s something Tuipulotu can potentially offer.
Tuipulotu is not a great pass rusher, but he’s not wasted when teams pass. And it’s an area he has improved during his career at USC. When he’s able to isolate on a blocker, he uses his strength to drive opponents back and his long arms to swat them out of the way. Important for what the Browns are trying to do defensively, Tuipulotu is good at staying in his rush lane.
Particularly in the AFC conference with so many quarterbacks who can make plays with their legs, being able to limit their ability to step up into the pocket is far more valuable than running around a blocker to try to make a play because it opens up a running lane. The goal is to take away the ability to evacuate the pocket and suffocate the passer.
Tuipulotu isn’t going to be on the field on 3rd-and-long, because there are simply better options. This was the case even at USC, but he can still be an asset when he is on the field.
The big question with this pick isn’t the player necessarily, but whether the Browns are comfortable carrying five defensive tackles. They don’t really have a backup nose currently behind Billings. Maybe they are comfortable with Jordan Elliott playing there, but they have Sheldon Richardson and Malik Jackson at the three at least. If they want another defensive tackle, Tuipulotu could be a player they like.
Round 5: Darren Hall, CB San Diego State
Age: 20 (Born May 2, 2000)
Height: 5’11 1/4″
Weight: 188 lbs
Arm Length: 30 5/8″
40-Yard Dash: 4.47
Broad Jump: 11′
Bench Press: 16 reps
Hall has a solid athletic profile overall. He doesn’t have elite speed or agility, but his explosion is excellent. The fact he’s so young is also a huge benefit.
Production: 31 solo tackles (10.1 percent), 6 pass deflections (22.2 percent), 3 interceptions, 2 tackles for loss in 2020 season
Hall is a hyper competitive corner that has been super productive over the past two seasons.
He’s an aggressive tackler who gets low and wraps up but will put his head down too much and give up his legs in the process.
In coverage, Hall is at his best when he’s playing top down and can see the ball coming. He will fight for the football and can end up undercutting receivers with a threat to score.
In a trail position, Hall can get into the receiver’s hip and run with them. He is far less confident knowing where the ball is and needs to do a better job playing the receiver’s hands and eyes as he can end up losing the play in the last moment.
Hall isn’t short but he doesn’t offer much length which can be an issue at times as he gives up a lot of completions. His agility isn’t ideal, but Hall may be someone that can offer some versatility and potentially play in the slot as well as the boundary.
Because he’s so young, it seems as though Hall has plenty he can still learn and hopefully take coaching at the next level. Coaches will love his attitude and just how competitive he is and combined with the base skills he offers, he has the capacity to be a nice player down the road.
Round 6: Darrick Forrest, S Cincinnati
Height: 5’11 1/2″
Weight: 206 lbs
Arm Length: 32″
40-Yard Dash: 4.43
Broad Jump: 11′
Bench Press: 21 reps
It would be difficult to draw up a better prospect physically better than Forrest. Everything is extraordinary except for his shuttle time and it’s fine. He’s a specimen.
Production: 63 solo tackles (11.2 percent), 3 interceptions (18.7 percent), 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 pass deflections in 2019 season
Apropos of nothing, Forrest is another example of NFL talent playing at Cincinnati, which has a good amount, so the notion they weren’t good enough to make the College Football Playoff continues to be a miscarriage of justice.
Forrest’s overall profile is better than the player has shown to be on tape and while he’s overshadowed by teammate James Wiggins, he’s nevertheless an intriguing talent with ridiculous upside given what he’s done the past two seasons for the Bearcats.
He looks bigger than his size would suggest on the field. Forrest can be an imposing player and a devastating hitter, though it can be at the expense of his technique. Overall, his tackles may not always be pretty but he doesn’t give up much ground and he gets the ball carrier on the ground.
When he’s committed to blitz or knows exactly where he’s going, he can fly. Plenty of experience dividing the field in half, Forrest has plenty of experience as the last line of defense. At times, he can get caught peeking in the backfield and will occasionally allow receivers to get behind him.
An intriguing option for the Browns, Forrest projects to strong safety that could also potentially contribute as a rover and should be able to help on special teams.
The Browns need depth at safety. They appear poised to play three safeties on the field on a regular basis, so they need more depth in case of injury. The Browns are likely to carry at least five safeties this year, so getting a player like Forrest in the pipeline is important.
Round 7: Buddy Johnson, LB Texas A&M
Height: 6′ 1/2″
Weight: 229 lbs
Arm Length: 31 1/2″
40-Yard Dash: 4.58
Broad Jump: 9’6″
Bench Press: DNP
Really impressive athletic profile, he has excellent speed, explosion and an intriguing amount of agility. A pleasant surprise in Pro Day testing.
Production: 45 solo tackles (14.3 percent), 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception in 2020 season
Perhaps a contradiction, Buddy Johnson has impressive athleticism that would suggest he could be a rangy run and chase option, he’s built like a fire hydrant and does his best work in the box going down hill. He plays with good pad level and a low center of gravity and opponents can have a difficult time blocking him.
In fact, watching him on tape, knowing he possesses this kind of athleticism, he doesn’t provide a ton of examples where he really cuts loose and shows the speed he’s capable. Some of what a team would like to be able to do in taking Johnson is trying to get him in position to utilize it more consistently.
When he’s blitzing or confident in his run read, he can knife into the backfield and make a mess. His compact build and speed could allow him to be an interesting weapon blitzing up the middle, potentially being on top of the quarterback before they know what’s coming.
In coverage, he’s often playing short zones, shuffling with his eyes on the quarterback. That’s an area where his lack of length can be limiting as he doesn’t take up much space. He also might be someone the quarterback loses scanning the field.
So in selecting him, he’s an effective run stopper, who might be undersized for some and the athleticism and potential is still there to be maximized. And that’s why he might be a contradiction for some teams, because typically a player like Johnson, who thrives in the box is bigger to take on blockers.
However, his technique and his low pad level may enable him to succeed anyway. He’s impressive in showcasing his strength and holding up against offensive linemen. Johnson takes full advantage of his leverage.
He’s not tiny, but if he’s able to play quick to the ball, he might be able to cause problems in the running game before opponents can get a body on him.
The hope is that in addition to depth, he can use the athleticism he has to contribute on special teams.
The Browns come into this draft with two major holes to address and after addressing one by picking Ossai at 26, immediately looking for a spot to trade up to grab Melifonwu. With two picks in both the third and fourth round, they could make the move without giving up their spot in any single round.
Beyond that, they add a receiver that has the capacity to help the offense immediately in Wallace, who can stretch the field, which may help them improve their spacing and create more explosive plays.
The rest of the draft is adding depth to the defense, including an additional nose, another corner and safety as well as a linebacker.
One of the likely keys for the Browns in day three of the draft will be adding players they fit feel their schemes while also being able to play special teams, an area where the team lost several players in free agency. The team will likely bring in more after the draft.
This draft class doesn’t necessarily step in and contribute right away, but the team may not need them to initially. They can afford to be integrated on their own schedule and find ways to help the team as most of the 2020 draft class did, being put in position to succeed.
If the Browns follow the pattern from last year in the draft, none of the players they select will be over 22, which is true of this group. They add another extremely young group of talent with proven production as well as long term potential.
READ MORE: Joseph Ossai’s Best Comparison? It Might be a Missed Opportunity from 2017